Part of the reason why Soulslikes are so in demand lately is how fantastic their gameplay and environment designs can be. FromSoftware has demonstrated this potential in all of its modern Soulsborne-related titles, but fans may be surprised to hear that similar features are also apparent in WB Games Montreal’s Gotham Knights. This is likely because while modern superhero games have often adopted the action-adventure genre, Gotham Knights stands out as an action-RPG. Gotham Knights takes a fresh stab at open-world design, bearing resemblance to Soulslike elements.
Soulslikes are defined by their unique level designs and approaches to combat; several mechanics are key in a Soulslike, such as having limited resources, an unmitigated sense of exploration in an unfamiliar environment, and a consequence for each death that impacts the experience. Of course, Gotham Knights is not a one-to-one Soulslike, and there are many parts of its gameplay design that harken back to traditional action-adventure titles instead. Gotham Knights does, however, open the door to what a Soulslike in the superhero genre could look like.
Gotham Knights’ Health Packs Are Reminiscent of Dark Souls’ Estus Flasks
Gotham Knights features nondescript health packs that players can use whenever they please. The catch is that players only have seven health packs on any given night in Gotham City, and therefore they must decide when and where to use them sparingly. When players return to Gotham Knights’ Belfry, their health packs replenish for the next night of patrol.
This is not unlike Dark Souls’ Estus flasks, which players replenish at intermittent bonfires. In this way, the Belfry is a neutral hub world like Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine, and returning to it each night is akin to resting at a bonfire. It is a simple mechanic, but makes nightly patrols in Gotham Knights more considered and inspired since premeditated crimes can become incredibly difficult, and between different case file missions players will not freely replenish health packs.
That said, brute damage-sponge enemies often drop health packs, which is a balm for when players are not ready to head back to the Belfry in fear of missing out on a favorable premeditated crime. Gotham Knights’ chunky combat is more similar to action-RPGs like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla than a traditional Soulslike, but even then it presents the same hit-and-run tactics with bosses that dish out unending attack strings. Indeed, if fans plan to play Gotham Knights on its Hard difficulty, they should expect to be dodging endlessly.
Gotham Knights’ RPG Features Could Thrive in FromSoftware Level Design
Gotham Knights’ open-world Gotham City is already immense, but it also features many mini-dungeon interiors that host premeditated crimes and case file missions that make it feel even bigger. Making their way through the entrance to a nightclub, for example, players can see neon-soaked areas that are structured to accommodate a particular encounter.
This approach to having mini-dungeons in Gotham Knights sort of resembles Elden Ring’s own mini-dungeons and grottos, though those sometimes feature only a few enemies and a mini-boss that await players. Nothing in Gotham Knights is as elaborate as Elden Ring’s subterranean labyrinths, but again it is eye-opening for the superhero genre and a great way for open-world cities like Gotham to extrapolate on their environments.
Superhero games often have the obligation to rely on a narrative with twists to uphold them, and therefore the Soulslike approach of minimal hand-holding would likely be difficult to implement. Quests given by NPCs are usually attached with myriad tutorials for players to fully comprehend what to do, while Soulslike NPCs may give obscure guidelines for players to follow with uncertainty. It would take much more redirection to fully accommodate a Soulslike design into a traditional superhero genre, but Gotham Knights is proof that such a game could be satisfying and emergent.
Gotham Knights is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.